Oil & Gas Operators Must Clean Up their Messes

Bayless Dry Creek Federal 1-14 in Routt County. Federal Photo courtesy of Earthworks. See thermal imaging of pollution at this site here.

When Oil and Gas wells are no longer producing in economic quantities, operators must plug the wells and reclaim the surface. Wells that are not cleaned up can become environmental hazards, risking toxic chemicals seeping into groundwater and climate-change-causing greenhouse gases polluting the air.

In 2021, Rocky Mountain Wild produced a story map about the risks from tens of thousands of low-producing, uneconomical, dangerous wells in Colorado. Since then, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) passed new financial assurance rules last year that Governor Jared Polis calls the “strongest in the nation.” The goal was to require operators to better prepare to meet the financial costs of cleaning up drilling and production sites.

Operators have now filed Financial Assurance Plans with COGCC. Rocky Mountain Wild and partners have reviewed these plans. Many operators are following the spirit and intent of the rules. However, we created this interactive map showing that dozens of Colorado’s oil and gas producers (including K.P. Kauffman) are skirting these rules. COGCC will begin holding hearings in April to evaluate whether these plans are adequate. Rocky Mountain Wild calls on COGCC to enforce these rules. Don’t allow irresponsible oil and gas companies to skirt the rules and force Coloradans to clean up their messes.